Life With 2013 Tesla Model S: Getting Supercharged In Winter Page 2


Tesla Road Trip from MD to CT, Feb 2013 - Tesla Model S cars at Delaware SuperCharger location

Tesla Road Trip from MD to CT, Feb 2013 - Tesla Model S cars at Delaware SuperCharger location

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There were no instructions on the charger, just a phone number to call in case of problems. The charging plug was the same as the one I use at home.

Click the button on the plug, the charge door pops open. Plug in, and the glowing ring around the charge port turns blue, then green, and begins to pulse rapidly. Just like at home. Nothing to it.

Tesla brags that Superchargers are located at places "you'll actually want to stop." Not the Milford service area, a monument to low-rent fast food: McDonald's, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts. I used the bathroom (clean), grabbed a smoothie and a Danish, and was out of there in 26 minutes.

During that time, the car picked up 62 miles of range, bringing the Guess-O-Meter up to 178 miles, more than double the mileage home.

This fell far short of Tesla's claimed 150 miles in 30 minutes.

There are, however, two reasons.

First, I was more than half full when I plugged in. The charging rate is very fast for an empty battery, but it slows down as the battery fills up.

Second, I have the mid-size 60-kWh battery, not the big 85-kWh model. With less capacity, my charge rate presumably falls off more quickly. (A Tesla rep on the owners' hotline could shed no light on 60-kWh vs. 85-kWh charging rates for me.)

With my brain perhaps dulled by a fast-food sugar-and-fat buzz, I had some trouble getting the plug out. With no instructions, I did what I do at home to unplug: squeeze the button on the plug and pull.

But it wouldn't come out. With  rising panic, I fiddled for 5 or 10 seconds, randomly pushing the button and tugging the cord. Nothing.

And then, thank God, it finally popped out, for no apparent reason.

(A Tesla hotline rep later confirmed that it takes longer for the Supercharger to shut down and release the charge cord. Might I suggest it would be nice to let Model S owners know that ahead of time?)

Fat with energy, I drove home at my normal 70 to 75 mph, and didn't stint on the acceleration. (Nothing crazy, though.) I arrived home with 76 miles remaining, for a net "usage" of 102 miles on the meter to cover the 88 miles home.

After trying out a Supercharger, I can see its potential.  But Tesla needs to put the charging stations closer together.

The two Superchargers connecting Washington D.C., and Boston are about 200 miles apart. John Broder notwithstanding, that's probably okay for an 85-kWh car under most conditions. But it provides little margin for cold weather, fast driving, or Murphy's Law.

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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And for 60-kWh cars like mine, it just doesn't work at all.

Okay, if I drive 55 mph and don't use the heat or air conditioning, I might make it by the skin of my teeth. Maybe. If nothing unexpected happens.

But I'm guessing  this kind of razor's-edge driving is not what Tesla has in mind. It's certainly not what I have in mind; this weekend I'll be driving to Baltimore in my trusty Chevy Volt because I'm not willing to risk the 198-mile drive in the Model S from my house to the Supercharger in Newark, Delaware.

According to  Broder, Elon Musk conceded that the Superchargers need to be 140 miles apart, not 200.

Speaking for all Supercharger-equipped 60-kWh Model S owners, I concur most heartily.

David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives 60 miles north of New York City.

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